Mourne men who love to reach Ulster final

June 19, 2017

USFC Down v Monaghan Saturday 24th June Athletic Grounds at 6.30pm

Second Division Galway’s defeat of First Division Mayo apart, all Provincial Football Championship matches to date have replicated league standing so on that basis First Division Monaghan should beat Second Division Down.

However, will last season’s massive 2-22 to 0-9 win for the Farney County prove fresh enough in the memory to allow complacency set in to their preparations, will one or both eyes be on Tyrone in the Ulster Final. And if so, can Down take advantage?

Last year Monaghan did not contest the kick outs in the first half to Down’s advantage and the scoring was close up to the interval but once they pushed up on the restart they were superior in every position and ran away with the result.

Neither squad shows much change in personnel in a year; only Stephen Kane (goals) and Gerard Collins (injured) don’t figure this time for Down though a handful are downgraded from starter to substitute allowing Michael Cunningham (goals), Anthony Doherty, Caolan Mooney, Shay Millar and the Johnstons, Jerome and Ryan, into the first fifteen.

For Monaghan, it’s a similar story with only Neil McAdam, Gavin Doogan and Jack McCarron breaking into their team and 17 of the 20 employed in Clones twelve months ago got game time v Cavan on 11th June.

When Down were expansive v Armagh they were also wide open at the back and shipped goals, when they tightened up at the back their scores were harder come by and its getting that balance right that will concern Eamon Burns who has invited several more players into his squad to freshen it up and make training more competitive.

Injuries to Niall Donnelly and Kevin McKernan that necessitated their substitution the last day will need to have cleared up and top scorer Barry O’Hagan has since been injured with his club so preparations are not ideal in the Mourne camp. If Donnelly doesn’t make it, Down have a ready-made replacement in Niall McParland who came on for him the last day and if McKernan is out, expect Conaill McGovern and Aidan Carr to alternate between sweeper and centre-half. Another player who could figure in the starting line-up is Donal O’Hare who is in his best ever form with Burren.

On the flip side Monaghan welcomed back the influential Darren Hughes during the Cavan match and they do seem to have too many riches for the Mourne men who would dearly love to reach a by now rare Ulster Final.